Monthly Archives: September 2008

French Apple Tart

It’s Rosh Hashanah, so of course, that calls for a Rosh Hashanah dinner party (which, for my friends and me, is very similar to our Passover dinner party, with even less religion because Rosh Hashanah does not have fun games like the afikoman hunt). We even reprised much of the menu, although this time, I was less involved in the cooking due to my immense amount of work this week. Given the fact that I have this lovely little baking blog going, I was only assigned dessert – I chose to make an apple tart [in a pie plate, though - less clean up] for several reasons:

1. It contains apples, which are symbolic of a sweet (a.k.a. good) new year.
2. I like tarts better than pies.
3. The top is pretty and fun to make.

French Apple Tart
*Contains 3 parts: pastry, filling and topping

Tart Pastry
1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c confectioners’ sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c cold unsalted butter, cut into 3/4″ pieces
2 large egg yolks
1 tbs heavy cream

1. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixtur and toss with fingers or a fork to coat in the flour. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in the butter untill the mixture forms coarse crumbs about the size of peas.
2. In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks with a fork, then stir in the cream until well-blended. Drizzle this over the flour mixture and stir with the fork until the dough is moist and comes together in a smooth, well-mixed mass.
3. On a work surface, shape the dough into a 6″ disk. Wrap in lastic and refrigerate until firm, at least 45 mins or up to overnight.
4. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Lightly dust the work surface and a rolling pin with flour. Roll out the chilled dough into a round about 13″ in diameter and 3/16″ thick. Work quickly to prevent the dough from becoming too warm.
5. Line a 9 1/2″ tart pan with a removable bottom with the rolled out dough and freeze crust until firm, about 30 mins. Preheat the oven to 400oF. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork all over and line it with foil and fill with dried beans, uncooked rice or pie weights.
6. Bake the crust until it dries out, about 15 mins. Remove the weights and foil. Lower the oven temperature to 350oF and continue to bake the crust for about 5 mins longer, until the edges are lightly browned. Remove and let cool completely.

Filling
5 apples (2 lbs), peeled, cored and cut into 1″ pieces
2 tbs sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp fresh lemon juice, strained
1 tbs unsalted butter, melted

1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375oF.
2. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper. In a large bowl, stir together the apple pieces, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, and melted butter until well mixed. Spread the mixture in the prepared pan.
3. Bake the apples until they are soft, about 20 mins, stirring once about halfway through. Remove from the oven and scrape the apples into a bowl. Using a spoon, mash the warm apples until there are only a few chumks left and they resemble chunky applesauce. Let cool to room temperature and spread in the prepared crust.

Topping
2 c (1/2 lb) peeled, cored, thinly sliced apples
1 tbs unsalted butter, melted
1 tbs sugar
1/4 c apricot preserves

1. Arrange the apple slices in 2 circular rows on the filled tart pan, slightly overlapping them to cover the filling completely. Drizzle with the melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.
2. Bake the tart until the apple slies are soft when pierced with the tip of a knife or a toothpick and the edges of the crust are browned, 45-50 mins. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
3. In a small pan over medium heat, warm the apricot preserves until melted, about 3 mins. Strain through a medium-meshed sieve and, using a pastry brush, brush the apple slices with the preserves. Unmold the tart and serve at room temperature.

Makes one 9 1/2″ tart

Chocolate Coconut Cookies

After I made the other chocolate coconut cookies (Bounty Cookies), I realised that they were kind of a pain to make, and they did not keep very well. So when it came time to actually make something to ship, I decided to retool. Out of laziness, since one person wanted chocolate, while the other wanted coconut, I came up with a Chocolate Coconut Cookie so that I only had to worry about making one thing.

Chocolate Cocout Cookies
24 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 package coconut

1. Preheat oven to 375o.
2. Melt 2 cups morsels in small, heavy saucepan over lowest possible heat. When morsels begin to melt, remove from heat; stir. return to heat for a few seconds at a time, stirring until smooth. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in medium bowl.
3. Beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla in a large mixer bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in melted chocolated. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in remaining chocolate chips and coconut. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
4. Bake for 9 minutes or until cookies are puffed. Cool for 5 minutes on cookie sheet, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Malt Sandwich Cookies

In Bloomfield, NJ, not far from where I grew up, there is an old-fashioned ice cream parlour called Holsten’s. They have such lovely things on the menu as the “cherry smash”, and grilled cheese with tomato in addition to a wide range of homemade ice creams and candy. I always loved the “Duster Sundae”, which is ice cream, chocolate syrup, malt powder, whipped cream and a cherry. This was probably the first place that I ever tasted malt powder (aside from Malteasers) – and then one day, I discovered that it was possible to purchase malt powder in a regular grocery store. Imagine that!

So, now that you know all about my love affair with malt powder…a word on the filling of these cookies. It is amazing. Seriously. It has the consistency of chocolate frosting from a can but it tastes just SO MUCH BETTER.

Chocolate Malt Sandwich Cookies
2 c plus 2 tbs all-purpose flour
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 c plain malted milk powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 c granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup creme fraiche (I just diluted some sour cream with buttermilk)
3 tbs hot water

For the filling
10 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 tbs (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 c plain malted milk powder
3 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 c plus 2 tbs heavy cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, malted milk powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Mix in egg, creme fraiche, and hot water. Reduce speed to low and beat in flour mixture.
2. Place tablespoon-size balls of dough 3 1/2 inches apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake until flat and just firm, about 12 minutes. Let cool on parchment on wire racks.
3. Meanwhile melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simming water, stirring. Remove and let cool slightly. Beat malted milk powder and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Gradually beat in heavy cream, chocolate mixture, and vanilla until well mixed.
4. To assemble the cookies, spread a heaping tablespoon filling on the bottom of one cookie. Sandwich with another cookie. Repeat. Cookies are best stored in a refrigerator.

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen cookies

Marble Loaf

During my hunt for some recipe ideas and suggestions for banana bread, I came across a Marble Cake with White Chocolate Glaze recipe in The Martha Stewart Baking Handbook. It looked really, really good, so I decided to make it – with my own variations, of course.

I’ve also been into miniaturising recipes for full-size quick breads, because mini-sized ones are easier to distribute, and most of my baking gets given away.

Marble Loaf
1 stick (1/2 c) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 c cake flour (not self-rising)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 c sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 c buttermilk, at room temperature
1/4 c + 1 tbs cocoa powder
1/4 c + 2 tbs boiling water

1. Preheat the oven to 350oF. Generously butter a loaf pan.
2. Whisk together the flour, bakingg soda and salt and set aside.
3. Beat butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add egs, one at a time, beating until combined after each addition. Mix in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with the buttermilk and beginning and ending with the flour. Set aside 1/3 of the batter.
4. In a bowl, mix together the cocoa powder and boiling water until smooth. Stir into the smaller portion of the cake batter and mix until well-combined.
5. Spoon the 1/3 of the white batter into the prepared loaf pan. Then make a checkerboard pattern on top with the remaining white batter and the chocolate batter. Run a knife through to create a marbled pattern.
6. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, 40-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto the wire rack to cool completely. Glaze.

White Chocolate Glaze
3/4 c sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 tbs buttermilk
2 1/4 oz melted and cooled white chocolate

Whisk together the buttermilk and sugar. Sitr in the white chocolate and mix until smooth.

Banana-Honey Bread

When I came back from Costa Rica, I bought some plantains, intending to make some fried plantains. Sadly, the plantains were not yet ripe enough for this venture, and by the time that they were, I was no longer in the mood for fried plantains. Now I was left with some overripe plantains that I did not particularly want to eat. Instead, I decided that I would whip together some banana bread in mini-loaf pans and distribute it to people!

Banana-Honey Bread
2 1/4 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c + 2 tbs unsalted butter
1/2 c light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 c honey
2 eggs
2 bananas, peeled and mashed
2/3 c nuts, chopped (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350oF. Butter and flour 2 large loaf pans.
2. In a bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until creamy. Add the honey and beat until blended. Add the eggs, increase the speed to medium-high, and beat until smooth. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in 2 additions, alternating with the mashed bananas. Beat on medium speed after each addition until smooth.
3. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pans. Sprinkle with nuts, if using.
4. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaves comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Let cool in the pans on a wire rack.

French Macarons

While sitting at dinner last Friday, my darling Cassandra asked if she could pick the cookie of the week. As I had no internet and thus could not peruse the web for suggestions, I assented. And then she said, “French macarons”. Now, the last time that I attempted French macarons was back in 2005 – and let me just say, it was a disaster.

If you do not know what a French macaron is, here goes: imagine an Oreo. Now replace the cookies with meringue. Now replace the filling with ganache/buttercream. There you go. They’re pretty much ubiquitous in Paris. So the problem that we are faced with is: we must make lots of equally sized meringues and make sure that when they are baked, they are absolutely dry so that they slide off of the baking sheets and can be properly iced. This time, I experimented and finally found a method that worked (I could have taken a better picture, though). We managed to make 4 flavours: vanilla, mocha, chocolate and cherry.

French Macaroons
4 large egg whites, at room temperature (IMPORTANT)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 superfine sugar (you can use granulated, but superfine is better)
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 oz ground blanched almonds or almond flour – this is approximately 1 cup
2 c sifted confectioners’ sugar

1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (again, IMPORTANT). Sift together the confectioners sugar into a medium bowl and whisk in the almondd flour.
2. In a large bowl, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar. Beat on medium speed until the whites begin to thicken, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat just until soft peaks form. Slowly add the superfine sugar and beat until stiff peaks begin to form. Beat in the vanilla until well-blended, then fold in the flour mixture.
3. Scoop the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2″ tip and pipe into mounds 1 1/2″ in diameter, spaced about 1″ apart. Gently smooth any point tips with a damp fingertip. Let sit, uncovered at room temperature, for about 35-45 minutes. [It is important to really follow this par because, firstly, using a plastic bag with a hole cut in it does not work and secondly, letting the cookies sit gives them their characteristic crispy exterior.]
4. Preheat the oven to 300oF and bake the cookies 1 sheet at a time for 20-25 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the tops and bottoms are firm and golden.
5. Remove from the oven and let cool on the sheets for 3 minutes. Then peel the cookies off of the parchment paper and transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes about 30 cookies

Variations:
For cherry, add 2 drops of red food colouring with the vanilla.
For chocolate, sift 3 tbs of unsweetened cocoa powder with the confectioners’ sugar.

For mocha, add 2 tbs instant coffee with the vanilla, and sift 3 tbs of unsweetened cocoa powder with the confectioners’ sugar.

Fillings
Ganache
6 oz (185 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tbs unsalted butter
1/2 c (4 fl oz/125 mL) heavy cream

1. Place the butter and chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate and butter.
2. Stir with a whisk until the chocolate and butter melt and are smooth. Let cool until spreadable.

Makes about 1 1/3 c

Variation: For mocha, add 2 tbs instant coffee powder.

Vanilla Meringue Buttercream
6 large egg whites
1 1/4 c (10 oz/315 g) sugar
2-2 1/2 c (1-1 1/4 lb/500-625 g) softened butter
1 tbs vanilla extract

1. Mix together the sugar and egg whites. Place in a double boiler and continue to mix until the mixture is quite warm and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat.
2. Beat the mixture on high speed until it is stiff and glossy (this will take awhile).
3. Add 2 c (1 lb) of butter and continue to beat on high speed until the frosting begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl, adding more butter as needed. The mixture should be smooth and satiny. If it looks curdled and the bowl feels old, warm slightly over hot water.
4. Beat in the vanilla.

Makes about 2 c

Variations: Whip in some flavour of jam (e.g. cherry) or food colouring.

Bounty Cookies

This fall, my one and only little sister joined the ranks of thousands of American college freshmen, as did my one and only girl cousin in my mom’s family. Now, from years of camp and college, I know that it is always a welcome surprise to receive a care package – especially a care package containing food. So, I promised them that I would bake for them. This cookie is for my sister, who requested something containing COCONUT.

Now, I have yet to find an actual cookie made with coconut that I really like – so I just invented my own, inspired by Bounty. Originally, I was making a recipe from the Gourmet Cookbook by Ruth Reichl for something called “Snowballs”, but when those ended up being just ordinary macaroons, I decided to spice things up a bit by encapsulating them in chocolate dough!

Bounty Cookies
For the coconut part:
3 c sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 large egg whites
2 tsp water

1. Preheat the oven to 350oF. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Either finely chop the coconut or pulse it in a food processor until it finely chopped. Place in a bowl and stir in the sugar and salt until they are well mixed. Then stir in the egg whites and water until well mixed.
3. With damp hands, scoop 1 tbs. sized mounds of coconut. Roll into balls and place on the baking sheets, about 1″ apart. Bake 13-15 minutes, until the balls are puffed but not coloured. Slide them on the parchment onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the chocolate part:
1 1/2 c flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 c white sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
3 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/2 c softened butter

1. Preheat the oven to 350oF and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a double boiler over gently simmering water, melt the unsweeteened chocolate. Let cool slightly, then beat into the softened butter until well-blended. Beat in the sugars until they are well-mixed in, then add in the flour and baking soda.
3. Take out a tablespoon-sized lump of dough and pat it as thin as you can between your hands,about 1/16″ to 1/8″. Place a coconut ball in the middle and pull the dough up around it so that it is completely encapsulated. Put the chocolate covered coconut ball on one of the prepared baking sheets. Repeat until all of the balls are covered, spacing them about 1″ apart.
4. Bake for abouut 10-12 minutes, until the outside of the dough feels firm. Remove from oven and transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes about 30 cookies

Meringue Tartlets

After a summer of not doing all that much baking, I decided to kick off the school year with something a bit special.  And I was also in the mood to can things.  So, I decided to make Lemon Curd Tartlets and then jar the extra curd – but this set me wondering, what kinds of other curd are out there?  Ultimately, I ended up with lemon and mango curd.  But the tartlets just looked a little bit bare, so then I made hats of meringue for them.

I have been using the same tartlet dough recipe for years, but I’ve never really been pleased wtih the results, so I decided to try a different recipe this time.  I felt that the new recipe produced a less oily texture, and they held together better.

Also, I should add that I used a really awesome baking implement, which I’ve had for about 2 years – namely, the silicone mini-muffin tin (mold?).  It’s just great.  It does not require greasing or anything, and the tartlet shells (and mini-muffins, if I am using it for them) just slide right out!

Meringue Tartlets

Pastry
3/4 c chilled butter
2 c flour
1/4 c sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 c ice water

1.  In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt. Cut the butter into chunks and place into a large bowl.  Using a pastry cutter, cut the flour mixture into the butter until it begins to resemble coarse cornmeal.  Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut in with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for about 15-20 minutes.
2.  Roll into small balls about 1″ in diameter and place in miniature muffin tins. Press the balls in to form the shells.  Refrigerate the filled tins for at least 20 minutes.
3.  Preheat oven to 350ºF. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool completely before filling.

Lemon Curd 3 eggs
5 tbs butter, melted
1 c granulated sugar
Juice and finely grated zest of 2 lemons

1.  Beat the eggs into the melted butter; then stir in the sugar. Beat until thoroughly combined.  Add the lemon juice and rind gradually.
2.  Cook in the top of a double boiler over gently simmering water until thickened, stiring constantly to prevent separation.  Let cook before pouring into the baked tartlet shells.

Note: Extra curd can be canned and stored in the fridge for about 2 weeks.  It goes really well in sandwiches and on digestives.

Mango Curd
1 15-ounce ripe mango, peeled, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1.  Beat the eggs into the melted butter; then stir in the sugar. Beat until thoroughly combined.  Add the lemon juice.  Chop the mango into 1″ chunks and puree in a food processor or blender.  Stir in the mango puree into the butter mixture.
2.  Cook in the top of a double boiler over gently simmering water until thickened, stiring constantly to prevent separation.  Let cook before pouring into the baked tartlet shells.

Meringue
5 egg whites, room temperature
½ tsp cream of tartar
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup granulated sugar

1.  Preheat the oven to 325ºF and line 2 baking sheets with parchment [Make sure you do not skip this step, otherwise the meringues may not come off of the baking sheets]. Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually, beating until it forms stiff, glossy peaks. This could take some time, maybe 10 minutes or more.
2.  Fill a pastry bag with the egg white mixture and pipe into 1″ circles on the baking sheets.  Bake for about 28 minutes, until the meringues appear brown and dry [I like mine really dry].  Let cool completely, and then top each filled tartlet with a meringue.